The best hand-held camera stabilising system?

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One of the accessories that many film and video makers use that helps add value to their productions is the Glidecam. It allows a camera to follow action or movement without resorting to zooming or in-camera stabilisation and avoids jerky shots from direct handling.

I purchased the HD 4000 a few years back having waited for Steadicam’s Merlin (what I believe was the first commercially available hand-held stabiliser system for the masses) to reduce in price. As with most market leading products, this did not occur and thus gave Glide-cam some traction among the budget concious.

Lately I’ve been pondering one of the new digitally controlled stabiliser systems. Having seen some of the enticing Freefly Systems movi footage 2 years ago, the ability to have more control over camera direction has always been at the back of my mind. Again Freefly were the first to introduce the system to the wider market but it’s cost was somewhat prohibitive. Enter the DJI Ronin. A system nearly as capable at an affordable price point. But reminding myself of the “Scratch rule” I had to convince myself that this would add significantly greater value to my productions.

Fortunately, I came across this comparison video recently by Stefan Czech “Glidecam DGS vs. DJI Ronin 3-Axis Stabilizer” . Stefan concludes that both systems have their pros and cons.

Personally my view is that the added value’s not as significant for me to invest in the Ronin at this time. As a single shooter or working often with small crews some things I would have to consider include:

  • with the camera positioned at chest height would this result in the viewer experiencing a lower than normal view? Especially in facial shots would they be staring up the talent’s nose?
  • the jogging of the camera from the walking/running of the cam. op. does not appear to be totally removed.
  • an independent operator is required to monitor and control the unit to ensure the shots are framed on the move.
  • Additional monitor and remote equipment would be required based on that point.

Furthermore, being self critical, I’ve got to ask myself … have I mastered fully the equipment at my disposal? One of the attractions to the Ronin is the ability to shoot low – e.g. following feet closely, etc. But this is achievable with the Glidecam by flipping it with the camera upside down and closer to the floor. A simple “flop” correction in post to rotate the clip would  achieve the desired result.

Maybe I’ll rent the Ronin at some point and try it out myself but until then I’ve got lots to still master using the Glidecam and great shots are still achievable.

So the best camera stabilisation system for me is the one I already have.

Thanks Stefan.